May 30, 2024

THE terrifying future of crime-fighting has arrived in the form of drones that are now capable of pursuing criminals in action.

One police force has recruited the technology seemingly straight out of science fiction to tackle theft and other petty crimes.

Cops in one police department are using drones to catch petty criminals

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Cops in one police department are using drones to catch petty criminalsCredit: WPVI
Drone footage tracks down a thief

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Drone footage tracks down a thiefCredit: Bensalem Police Department
The police insist it will help them catch criminals

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The police insist it will help them catch criminalsCredit: Bensalem Police Department

Police in Bensalem Township, Pennslyvania, just 30 minutes northeast of Philadelphia recently released footage of drones tracking down and helping catch suspected thieves to local ABC News affiliate WPVI.

Detective Glenn Vandegrift explained that their “small fleet” of drones is part of a Bensalem Secure Task Force, meant to address growing retail theft issues.

“Our goal is to bring our business community together in collaboration with law enforcement to reduce theft with practical and sustainable solutions,” reads the task force’s website.

Last year, the county reported nearly 900 retail thefts; up around 50% from just four years prior.

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In 2019, they reported only 484 retail theft incidents.

Part of the effectiveness of the drones is credited to the speed at which they can be dispatched and locate suspects.

Because they are airflown, and not bound by traffic patterns or traditional road routes, the police say an operator can typically get a device on the scene within two minutes.

“Our clearance rate for retail thefts is 62%. That is significantly higher than the national average,” said Vandegrift.

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The detective believes the success of his department should serve to inspire other departments to invest in drone technology.

HOW IT WORKS

When a call is made regarding a shoplifting incident, the department immediately dispatches a drone, equipped with a camera that allows real-time footage and video recording to search for and go after the thief.

Moment brazen Target shoppers steal $74k worth of items & walk right by self-checkout – ‘bin’ strategy was caught on cam

Once the drone operator locates a perpetrator, they track the individual until law enforcement can apprehend them.

In one instance, a perpetrator stole a bicycle and was caught using drones.

A description of the thief, the bike, and the location of the incident were provided to the police and a drone was able to locate and follow the suspect.

Less than a mile from where the bicycle was stolen, officers made an arrest using information fed to them by the drone operator in pursuit.

Once the drone operator locates a perpetrator, they keep tabs on the individual until on the ground law enforcement can apprehend them

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Once the drone operator locates a perpetrator, they keep tabs on the individual until on the ground law enforcement can apprehend themCredit: Bensalem Police Department
The drones are seen as excessive by civil liberties groups

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The drones are seen as excessive by civil liberties groupsCredit: Bensalem Police Department
Cops say they're responding to soaring thefts in the county

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Cops say they’re responding to soaring thefts in the countyCredit: Bensalem Police Department

Another suspect, in an undisclosed crime, was also seen being arrested on drone footage.

“This guy would have been able to get away if the drone was not involved,” contented Vandergrift.

The video revealed the fleeing suspected thief looking over his shoulder as he ran through a parking lot before crossing a road.

Shortly after making his way across the road, two police cars pull up and officers jump out, apprehending the suspect.

While some might think that this is an excessive amount of effort for shoplifting, Vandergrift has a different perspective.

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“It doesn’t matter if it’s $20 or $200, we’re coming at you just as hard,” he said.

Their drone technology might also one day be used in other criminal investigations and chases.

Anti-theft measures rolled out by retailers

Retailers across the US and Canada have rolled out strategies designed to combat theft. The U.S. Sun has compiled a list of measures that have been implemented at stores.

  • Locking items in cabinets.
  • Security pegs.
  • Security cameras.
  • Signs warning about the impact of theft.
  • Receipt scanners.
  • Receipt checks.
  • Carts with locking technology